2020 is a marker year in very many respects. It is the start of a new decade – the second of the 21st Century. Symbolically, many link it to the score for perfect vision -2020. More than 15 years ago the Government of the day sought to use this analogy to underpin the country’s development planning: Vision 2020 was the buzz phrase. Although it promised much at the start, with more than 600 people involved in the process of creating a new way forward for Trinidad and Tobago, Vision 2020 ended up being a failure because the government pursued a path different from that developed by these hundreds of citizens.
In 2010 the country sought a way forward politically with what was supposed to be a government formed by a coalition of parties, but that too ended in failure as the largest party refused to operate in a true coalition of parties and secondly reneged on the commitments made in the Partnership’s Manifesto and Founding Document – the Fyzabad Declaration. In 2015, another route was chosen, again in the hope of the country moving forward. After four years, the change that was promised has not materialised and hope has given way to frustration and citizens being more and more fed up. Today’s Cabinet reshuffle doesn’t change the price of coffee, it is simply an effort to have key Ministerial portfolios organised so as to dispense more patronage with the objective of winning votes in the 2020 General Elections.
January 1st, 2020 is the start of a new year and a new decade, but the issues and challenges are the same as those in 2000, in 2010 and in 2015, with one exception: politically we have boxed ourselves into a corner. In late 2000 the UNC won the elections on its own for the first time. Following the internal fallout in that party, a year later we got the 18-18 tie which neither Mr. Manning nor Mr. Panday saw as an opportunity to have a government of national unity in order to bring about one objective – constitutional change. In 2001 the country re-elected Mr. Manning but voted him out in 2010. In came Mrs. Persad-Bissessar but she failed in the mandate given to her. It was then Dr. Rowley’s turn and we have learnt that his deeds do not match his talk of being a champion of change and committed to bring the corrupt to justice.
So in 2020, we have offering themselves as the “main” contenders for government the very two leaders of the same two traditional parties that have failed us. To paraphrase the well-known saying - voting for them again expecting a different result is “political madness”. That is the political corner that we have been boxed into. The result is that we, the majority of the people will lose as we have been losing for many years.
If there is one lesson that we should learn it is this. All of the many problems that we experience: unemployment; the lack of decent jobs; high prices; growing inequality of wealth and income; rising crime, especially murders and violent crime; poor infrastructure; health care and education system failures; and national institutions from Judiciary to Parliament that don’t work in the interest of ordinary citizens – have not and cannot be solved by reshuffling the same pack or by placing our faith in the two failures of PNM/UNC – Keith/Kamla.
Some are of the view that what we need to do is to force one of these to implement some reforms such as: implementing the Public Procurement law; passing party finance legislation; tackling corruption etc. While these are all necessary, they are not enough bring about fundamental change. What is needed is a change in the relations of economic, political and social power so that:
· people have power where they live in their communities;
· we shift power from the few elites by involving many more in decision making;
· we break up the old plantation economic system where only a few own and/or control the majority of wealth and income;
· we end the policies of austerity and neo-liberalism that results in growing inequality;
· we change our attitudes and culture to one where we all take responsibility, respect each other and end the violence in all its forms and manifestations
These are the principles upon which we need to evolve and build a new Trinidad and Tobago. The MSJ has said that this evolution is the Second Republic. This is the way forward for a better life for all, not just the few.
We need to get out of the political corner into which we have been boxed - the mental slavery of believing that the only possible outcomes of the 2020 elections is that we stay PNM or revert to UNC – as this will solve nothing and push us further towards being a failed state The MSJ challenges our fellow citizens to think out of the box, to have a revolution of the mind! As Angela Davis, the outstanding radical activist said “You have to act as if it were possible to transform the world. You have to do it all the time. Optimism is a political act”.
The new hope that we have for our nation is that the majority of citizens really do want to bring about real change. That was the clear message that we have been hearing from so many of you during the past year. People are saying – “we are fed up”; and “we need change”. The MSJ dares you take that step forward - for you have the power to make the change. We can disrupt the status quo. Let us make 2020 the Year of the “Revolution of the Mind”.